Lisa Illean’s arcing, stilling, bending, gathering, premiered by pianist Aura Go and musicians from the Australian National Academy of Music, is now available to watch online. The 19-minute piece for piano, string ensemble of 12 players and pre-recorded sounds premiered on 21 April at the Melbourne Recital Centre.  It was commissioned by UKARIA, Finding Our Voice and Britten Sinfonia. A film exploring the creation of the piece, with contributions from Illean, is also available to watch here.

Violinist Emma McGrath leads the ensemble, with electronics realised by Tilman Robinson. The pre-recorded sound files for the piece were created with David Lefeber and Explore Ensemble.  Watch other performances of Illean’s work and discover more about her music on the Finding Our Voice Lisa Illean playlist here.

arcing, stilling, bending, gathering opens sparsely and quietly. The ensemble is arranged into smaller groups – satellites of sound heard only in part. Glacial chords and floating tapestries of sound mingle, with a constantly shifting sense of focus. The ensemble of 12 strings is arranged into three string quartets: two use the standard lineup, but the third consists of double bass and violins/viola that use unique non-tempered tunings. Likewise, Illean calls the pianist to strum the open strings of a scordatura guitar. 

Illean describes the piece as “a very personal contemplation of the moments of kinship and tenderness that balance the immensity of the world we inhabit.” It is partly inspired by Illean’s recollection of two films by Sergei Eisenstein, in which fleeting reflections appear on shop windows; Illean’s music elaborates these ideas of superimposed transparent layers that shift, blur and transform.

arcing, stilling, bending, gathering will receive its UK premiere from Britten Sinfonia on 11 May 2024 at the Barbican’s Milton Court. They will also premiere two string arrangements by Illean of Gilles Binchois. It is of a programme exploring the music of Carlo Gesualdo with the Marian Consort, and features Brett Dean’s Carlo (1997) for voices and strings.

On 20 November GBSR Duo and David Zucchi will give the UK premiere of Illean’s Tiding II (silentium), for saxophone, percussion, piano and electronics at the Huddersfield Contemporary Music Festival. The 17-minute piece was premiered in 2021 by Trio Accanto and the SWR Experimental Studio at the 2021 Donaueschinger Musiktage. Like her 2021 work for solo electric guitar Tiding, the first in a series of pieces exploring elemental patterns, Tiding II is inspired by the work of Christine Baumgartner, especially her 2013 woodcut Deep Water.